The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has praised Colombia’s political commitment to fighting narcotics production and related crimes and financial support of the office’s technical assistance projects against the scourge in the region.
On his first visit to the South American country, Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, yesterday thanked the President Juan Manuel Santos for his Government’s generous funding of UNODC’s programmes.
Colombia, once the world’s leading producer of coca, has managed to cut down the cultivation of the raw material for cocaine significantly over the past decade. Its economic growth has also demonstrated a distinct correlation between increased national security and a declining drug economy, according to UNODC.
“Colombia’s progress in drastically reducing drug production has had a positive global impact in terms of security and public health. UNODC is prepared to continue to support Colombia in addressing existing and future challenges related to drugs and crime,” said Mr. Fedotov.
Mr. Fedotov visited Antioquia province, where many alternative development programmes are being implemented. He commended those successful efforts, which have helped wean poor farmers off coca crop cultivation by encouraging them to pursue legal livelihoods.
Programmes supported by UNODC have helped over 150,000 farmers switch from dependence on illicit markets to gainful employment by creating over 28,000 jobs and 600 rural enterprises that produce products such as coffee, cocoa, palm hearts, chocolate and honey.
By pioneering alternative development initiatives such as the Forest Warden Families programme, Colombia has made more than 4 million hectares, an area the size of the Netherlands, “drug-free.”
Those efforts may also have helped mitigate climate change – the production of a gram of cocaine leads to the destruction of four square metres of rainforest. Reforestation projects are thought to have captured some 75 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Mr. Fedotov stressed the principle of “shared responsibility” and the need to build national, regional and international efforts into a comprehensive strategy on the cultivation, production and trafficking of drugs. Colombia is one of the few countries to have embraced that principle.
“Consumer countries must do their part too and reduce the demand that drives the drugs trade, trafficking and violent crime,” he said. “This is a matter for all of us. I urge the international community to keep up support for Colombia, which has shouldered so much of the burden of drug-related crime and terrorism in the past.”